Looking for Running Inspiration? You’ll Find It in These Must-Read Books

Miriam Diaz-Gilbert
4 min readMay 5, 2023

These books will motivate you to lace up your shoes and put one foot in front of the other on the running course and in life.

My collection of running books. Photo by: Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

I’ve been running races from short 5Ks (3.1 miles) races to long multi-day ultramarathons since 1989. Along the way, I’ve read some very inspiring books about running, enduring, and overcoming adversity. If you are a newbie to the running world of any distance or a seasoned runner, these books are for you.

Let’s begin with the first running book I bought and read back in 2005 — Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-night Runner. Ultramarathoner and New York Times best-selling author Dean Karnazes writes about personal loss, his mid-life crisis, and how running helped him to cope and heal. You should also read his other books: RUN!: 26.2 Stories of Bliss and Blisters, The Road to Sparta, 50/50: Secrets I’ve Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 States and A Runner’s High: My Life in Motion, his most recent book. Set your life in motion and read Dean’s books and the following running books.

Bart Yasso’s book, Race Everything: How to Conquer Any Race at Any Distance in Any Environment and Have Fun Doing It (with Erin Strout) is jam-packed with advice and tips for running 5K runs to ultramarathons (distances greater than 26.2 miles) to relay races. Bart’s conversational writing style makes Race Everything an engaging page-turner.

The life of endurance athlete and world adventurer Charlie Engle is one that seeks challenges and that thrives, for better or worse, on danger. Engagingly well-written, Running Man: A Memoir is a compelling page-turner filled with jaw-dropping and harrowing stories of alcohol and drug addiction, cocaine and crack binges, hitting rock bottom, close calls with death, setbacks, struggles, suffering, prison time, injustice, and survival through the power of running.

If you’re a running newbie or you want to improve your running speed, training, diet, and all that is needed to be at the top of your running game, add Bill Watts’s Running for the Average Joe to your running library. It is well-researched and comprehensive. Each chapter is a walking encyclopedia chock-full of everything you need to know about running. You will learn about the history of running, running legends, running psychology and physiology, nutrition, strength training, setting goals, training plans, and so much more in great detail. The accompanying photos and science book like illustrations in many of the chapters will keep you wanting to read more.

Ultrarunner Catra Corbett’s memoir Reborn On The Run: My Journey from Addiction to Ultramarathons (with Dan England) will resonate with many — those struggling with and those who have battled and conquered drug addiction and eating disorders; those who have endured failed relationships, loss of family and friends, and who seek comfort and solace through hiking grueling distances in the wilderness, and healing through the power of running. This powerful book will take you on a fast paced, nonstop odyssey of Catra’s life’s adversities and challenges, grueling struggles on the course and trails, and her journey to overcoming and personal transformation.

These are just nine of the many books that I have read, that have inspired me as an ultrarunner, and that I’ve reviewed on my website blog.

Me running with books that I rescue from people’s trash during my training runs. Photo by Jon Gilbert.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Running for Good is also brimming with amazing, moving, and inspiring running stories by ordinary runners including my own running story — Running in Sickness and in Health.

Add these books and memoirs about endurance and running any distance to your running reading list. These books will inspire and motivate you to lace up your shoes, train well, race well, endure, overcome adversity, be resilient, and get to the finish on the course and in life.

Read Next:

Read about my ultrarunning adventures and tips for running ultramarathons. I hope I inspire you. On Mother’s Day weekend 2023, I’ll be running my 34th ultramarathon — my third 24-hour track ultramarathon.



Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

My debut memoir Come What May, I Want to Run: A Memoir of the Saving Grace of Ultrarunning in Overwhelming Times is published. Website: miriamdiazgilbert.com